By KASONDE KASONDE -
SWEDISH Ambassador to Zambia Lena Nordstrom has said there is need to reach out to the prison population as part of action to lower incidences of HIV/AIDS in the country.
Ms Nordstrom said Zambia had made great strides to lower the prevalence of HIV in its population but it still stood at around 14 per cent in the adult population and more than 27 per cent of prisoners tested positive.
Speaking in Kabwe yesterday when she officially handed over a VCT health centre at Mukobeko Maximum Prison which was constructed at a cost of K350, 000 through the United Nations on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Ms Nordstrom said the health centre would reach out to the inmates, prison staff and would extend its services to the community.
Ms Nordstrom said scaling up HIV testing had the potential of saving lives and preventing many infections.
She said the earlier an individual was put on treatment, the better health outcome, as could be seen by the many HIV positive people who were living healthy and positive lives.
“The role of the health workers is extremely important as it is there work, attitude and service towards the inmates of the prison, as well as other visitors that will make the difference in their lives,” Ms Nordstrom said.
Meanwhile, Zambia Prisons Service commissioner Percy Chato said the construction of the structure started in 2009 with global funds but failed to be completed until the UNODC came on board through the Swedish Embassy’s aid and completed the centre.
Mr Chato added that the UNODC completed, furnished and provided equipment such as computers and a CD-4 count machines among many other equipment at a total cost of K350, 000.
He said the handover of the VCT health centre would go a long way as it supplements efforts of the Service in providing quality health services to officers, inmates as well as surrounding communities.
Mr Chato said Kabwe Maximum Prison Clinic covered a catchment area of 5800 people and has had no established VCT centre for years.
Central Province Permanent Secretary Edwidge Mutale said Government is grateful for the contribution by the Swedish Embassy to supplement its efforts in reducing and controlling the spread of HIV/AIDS in Prisons.
Ms Mutale said the Government through the Ministry of Home Affairs has continued to score successes in treating the disease through the Prisoners accessing the ARVs.